Speech is a faculty that differentiates human beings from other species. We are the only creatures blessed with the capacity to speak, converse, maintain relationships, analyze emotions and thoughts and hold a group together.
Have you ever thought that knowing how to listen is as vital to a conversation as knowing what to say? How many times have most of us asked, “How are you?” and then closed our ears and tuned out our minds? We have done it many times and others have done it to us as many times.
Do you know what Zeno of Citium, a Greek Philosopher (300 BC) and the founder of Stoicism had said? “The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen more and talk the less.”
Interesting conversation is a give-and-take process. Interest is created by listening and responding. Giving someone your attention is mandatory when you speak to him. But how many of us really listen?
Today’s world of rush and hurry is responsible for this flaw. But a readjustment of priorities – of putting people at the top of your list, will certainly reap rich dividends for you. Being essentially social in nature, human beings need friends, warmth and affection to survive.
So how is one to listen? It is as simple as keeping your ears open and as complex as keeping them open and tuned in as long as you command them to – because ears have a way of turning off without your knowledge. And that is when the problem starts.
Listening is accomplished by being aware. Ask questions and investigate. Develop a natural curiosity. Your questions will give others an opportunity to express themselves. This puts you in a good position too and you command the full attention of the speaker.
Listening effectively involves paying attention and retaining information. Remembering a friend’s favorite colour or flower or birthday is really very flattering and immediately endears you to her.
Body language can convey interest. Keep your hands visible, hiding them under the table when conversing or at meetings is distracting. Avoid crossing your arms and legs as this conveys a defensive or closed mind.
We all love to talk but we need to become good listeners too if want to be good conversationalists.
When interacting with others, offer them your full concentration. When on phone, be sure you are not also listening to music or watching television. Be sure you are not trying simultaneously to draw up a grocery list.
Listening is accomplished by understanding what is being said. Before you respond, think and make sure you have understood the statement. Ask questions, or ask the speaker to repeat what he or she said. Otherwise you might become a victim of the foot-in-the-mouth disease which can have disastrous consequences.
Think first and speak later. It is not a crime not to be born with a witty, quick-silver tongue, but certainly it is a crime to shoot off whatever pops into your head without thinking.
Your response to what is being said is also important to accomplish listening. The interested response offers a solution or suggestion, an uninterested one switches to a problem of your own.
Desist from the temptation to be one up on people. The I-can-top-that kind of attitude keeps a conversation from being mutually satisfying. Often words are not required to convey response. A nod, a smile, a pat or even a hug can convey many things. These can say, you are listening and that you understand.
A good conversation involves a steady progression from one topic to another. But an abrupt change in subject is not very encouraging. Find a suitable time and bridge to steer the conversation to a subject you are more comfortable with. Conversations should be informative and should be a fruitful exchange of ideas making it interesting for both of you.
Listening effectively, fortunately, is an art one can cultivate with practice and patience. And once you master it, you will be a happier, more interesting person who gives joy to others.
(Guest Post by MG)
(Guest Post by MG)
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